Ever since I met my husband, one of our favorite family traditions has been performing in Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston’s annual “ChristmasTime” production.
Our first performance together
This year, for the first time, both our kids performed in the show, as well. It’s a wonderful kick-off to the Christmas season, but it takes an awful lot of time right before the holiday. In fact, in some ways, I feel like the show IS the Christmas holiday, and there just happens to be a completely separate second Christmas that comes afterward.
Rehearsals begin in early November, with a busy production weekend including a dress rehearsal with all 200 performers (nearly 100 of them under the age of 8 or so) falling just after Thanksgiving, with a full tech week of long evening rehearsals the following week. Performances run the first two weekends of December, with 5 performances (!!!!) each weekend. My husband and I host a cast party for the adult cast members the first weekend, which means that sometime before Thanksgiving we have to get the entire house and yard decorated (and cleaned!), or else it won’t happen in time for the party. The bottom line is that we spend all our time from 6 weeks before Christmas to less than 2 weeks before Christmas completely wrapped up in this show. I don’t think about shopping for Christmas presents, I don’t plan out my holiday menu, I don’t schedule details of family gatherings, I only worry about costumes and lyrics and backstage babysitters and how to stop my kids from picking their noses on stage. (Note: costumes, lyrics, and babysitters were fine; the nose picking, well, let’s just say that I’m still looking for a solution on that one.)
Yesterday was the final performance of the show, followed by a quick packing up of boxes (and boxes…and BOXES…) of costumes, rushing back home for a brief but wonderful visit with family who had come to see the show, and falling into bed. The adrenaline was still coursing, the elation of hearing the thunderous applause and the many grateful comments from audience members was still fresh in our ears. But this morning…this morning, we’re all feeling the crash of finishing one Christmas and barreling towards the next.
On the morning after the show every year, I look at the calendar and feel a sudden rush of panic at how little time is left and how much I have still to do before Christmas comes. Shopping, baking, scheduling, cleaning, wrapping. How will it ever get done? And yet, somehow it always does get done. Maybe someone won’t get exactly the present they had hoped for, but they’ll get something special. Maybe someone will miss their favorite kind of Christmas cookie, but there will be Christmas cookies. Maybe some family visit will be put off until January because we just couldn’t figure out how to squeeze it in, but there will be a family visit (eventually).
Why do I keep doing this, year after year, if it induces such panic every time? Because that panic, that pre-Christmas post-Christmas crash, lasts for only a moment relative to all the wonderful, joyous, peaceful feelings that I get from doing the show. The hours of looking out over a rapt audience, seeing the excited faces of children watching us perform, watching my kids playing backstage with their new friends, relaxing with the other performers who have become not only friends but extended family over the years, the beauty of singing carols which have been sung by hundreds of other voices over hundreds of years, the pride of watching my children entertain an audience (and loving it) – all that washes away the momentary panic. All that, to me, is the spirit of Christmas: sharing joy, peace, and the happiness of the season with others.
Merry Christmas to all!